Charleston Southern bracing for improved set of Charlotte 49ers in Saturday’s meeting

Charleston Southern football coach Jamey Chadwell expects to see a different Charlotte 49ers team Saturday than the one his Buccaneers faced last season.

“They’re bigger, faster and more physical, but that’s not the most important thing about them,” said Chadwell, whose team beat the 49ers 36-14 in Charlotte’s first season of football. “You can tell how their kids are handling certain situations now.

“No matter what the circumstance, they’re never losing sight that they can win. Any time you have a new program, there are growing pains. But they’ve really made strides in that area. They’re playing with much more confidence.”

Saturday’s game at Richardson Field matches the 49ers (3-1) against Charleston Southern (4-0), which is ranked 25th in this week’s Football Championship Subdivision coaches poll.

Charleston Southern led Charlotte 21-14 last season before scoring 15 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.

And while Chadwell might see a more mature 49ers team on film, Charlotte made several costly mistakes last week in a 20-13 loss at Elon, the 49ers’ first defeat of the season. Charlotte had four turnovers and was penalized eight times for 60 yards. One of those penalties – when quarterback Matt Johnson crossed the line of scrimmage before throwing – nullified a potential game-tying touchdown pass as time expired.

“I told the team, we’ve got to clean things up,” 49ers coach Brad Lambert said. “Too many penalties, especially offensively, and you can’t turn the ball over four times. It’s hard to overcome that. We’ve got to be precise and not make a ton of mistakes.”

One of the 49ers’ main tasks against Charleston Southern will be to contain the Buccaneers’ option offense, which rolled up 548 yards against Charlotte last season. Senior fullback Christian Reyes, who gained 181 yards on 26 carries in that game, returns.

“We’ve played (option teams) Navy and Georgia Tech several times,” said Lambert, a former assistant at Wake Forest and Georgia. “And he’s as good a fullback as you’re going to play against. He’s a tough guy, and he’ll be a challenge for us. We have to be on point.”

Charlotte’s defense has defended the run well this season, allowing 2.3 yards per rush.

Charleston Southern won last season’s game thanks to a safety and two late Charlotte turnovers the Buccaneers turned into touchdowns. That’s when Chadwell might have seen defeat in the 49ers’ eyes.

“There will be an edge about that with everybody around here this week,” Lambert said. “But emotion can only carry you so far. Executing and doing the right things are what gets you through the game.

“But that was a tough game down there last year. We had a chance to win it, but we didn’t.”


• 49ers receiver Trent Bostick and H-back Richard Murphy each suffered concussions against Elon and are day-to-day. Defensive back Terrance Winchester, who missed the Elon game with a knee injury, might play against Charleston Southern. Quarterback Matt Johnson has a bruised forearm (from the final play aaginst Elon) but will play Saturday.

• Austin Duke’s 123 receiving yards against Elon was his second consecutive 100-plus yard game (he had 126 against N.C. Central), a first in school history.

• Charleston Southern is one of four teams on Charlotte’s schedule which are either in the top 25 or receiving votes in Football Bowl Subdivision polls: Coastal Carolina is third in both the coaches and Sports Network polls, while James Madison and Gardner-Webb are receiving votes in the Sports Network poll.